Responses of insectivorous bats and nocturnal insects to local changes in street light technology

Joanna K. Haddock*, Caragh G. Threlfall, Bradley Law, Dieter F. Hochuli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Artificial light at night is a pervasive anthropogenic stressor for biodiversity. Many fast-flying insectivorous bat species feed on insects that are attracted to light-emitting ultraviolet radiation (10–400 nm). Several countries are currently focused on replacing mercury vapour lamps, which emit ultraviolet light, with more cost-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights, which emit less ultraviolet radiation. This reduction in ultraviolet light may cause declines in insect densities in cities, predatory fast-flying bats, and some edge-foraging and slow-flying bats. Capitalising on a scheme to update streetlights from high ultraviolet mercury vapour to low ultraviolet LED in Sydney, Australia, we measured the activity of individual bat species, the activity of different functional groups and the bat and insect communities, before and after the change in technology. We also surveyed sites with already LED lights, sites with mercury vapour lights and unlit bushland remnants. Species adapted to foraging in cluttered vegetation, and some edge-space foraging species, were more active in unlit bushland sites than in all lit sites and decreased in activity at lit sites after the change to LED lights. The change to LED streetlights caused a decrease in the fast-flying Chalinolobus gouldii but not Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis, the latter being more influenced by seasonal and environmental variables. Insect biomass was not affected by changing light types, but instead was negatively correlated with the moon's percentage illuminance. Changing streetlights to LEDs could result in a decline in some insectivorous bats in cities. This study confirms that unlit urban bushland remnants are important refuges for high bat diversity, particularly for more clutter-adapted species and some edge-space foraging species. Preventing light penetration into unlit bushland patches and corridors remains essential to protect the urban bat community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1052-1064
Number of pages13
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number6
Early online date24 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • artificial light
  • artificial light at night
  • light-emitting diode
  • mercury vapour
  • species traits
  • urban ecosystems


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